Meetups for Utah entrepreneurs

If you are a founder or co-founder of a startup company in Utah, check out the Entrepreneur Brainstorm Lunches that are being held a couple of times per month. The next one is tomorrow at Mimi’s Cafe in Orem, starting at 11:30 am.

The format is simple. Everyone buys their own lunch. Every founder gets to introduce himself or herself to the group, talk for a minute about their company, and then describe a specific problem or challenge they are facing right now. The rest of the group spends 5-7 minutes brainstorming solutions. I’ve attended a dozen or so of these events, and every time I’ve seen nearly every entrepreneur walk away with really good advice about tools, or software, or websites, or books, or articles, or experts that they didn’t know about before, that may help them deal with their immediate challenge.

The concept was inspired by the book “Never Eat Alone” but the format was inspired by Corporate Alliance. Corporate Alliance is an awesome company founded by Jared Stewart that helps business owners gain great value from networking and peer advice. Their events are more rewarding from a social standpoint than any events I’ve ever attended — and I’ve gone to scores of conferences and trade shows and other events around the country for the past 17 years.

There are just 3 spots left for tomorrow’s lunch. So RSVP now if you are a founder of an actual startup company. Most of our lunch events are open to entrepreneurs at any stage, but tomorrow is restricted to founders of actual startup companies.

 

Never Eat Alone – Brainstorm Lunches for Utah Entrepreneurs

Never Eat Alone – Brainstorm Lunches for Utah Entrepreneurs

A few years ago, inspired by the book Never Eat Alone, I started holding casual, pay-for-your-own-lunch lunches with other entrepreneurs in Utah. We called these “entrepreneur brainstorm lunches.” We usually held them at Magelby’s restaurant, where at the end of the meal for some reason they would always bring out a twinkie for everyone. So Provo’s economic development director started calling the lunches “Twinkie Talks.”

Recently, I met with a local entrepreneur who attended a couple of these brainstorm lunches, and he said we should start them up again. So we are. The Twinkie Talks are back, sans the twinkies.

His current team set up an event on EventBrite so we can take RSVPs.

The first one is tomorrow at Malawi’s in Provo.

Hurry, there are only a few slots left.

But don’t worry. We’re planning to hold brainstorm lunches every week or two.

Here’s the link: http://bit.ly/IsCNuA

 

Source:

https://plus.google.com/117388252776312694644/posts/YQFDjJ4uYjs

Rural entrepreneurship

On Saturday, I’ll be speaking in Kanab about technology enabling rural entrepreneurship.

I have spoken at a few rural business conferences in Utah in the past. Usually I talk about how internet marketing (Google AdWords, affiliate marketing) and social media (blogging, Twitter, Facebook) can help rural businesses grow. But this time I’m hoping to address the opportunities rural entrepreneurs have to use technology to build companies and create jobs.

Rural Success Stories

I’ve been scouring my personal knowledgebase and a database 4,500 company histories for examples of rural startup companies that made it big. I’m finding a few, such as Backcountry.com (Heber City, Utah) and MyYearbook (New Hope, PA). But I’m not finding very many.

I remember when John Bresee, co-founder of Backcountry.com told me that his company had grown to about 65 employees and had become one of the largest private employers in Heber City. Later they moved to Park City. Now they have 625 employees and revenues of more than $250 million.

Can you imagine how a single company like this could transform a rural community’s economy?

Wal-Mart may be the best historic example of a rural startup that changed a community. But it may not be all that relevant to today’s modern technology entrepreneur. Still, it’s interesting. Bentonville, AK grew from 19,000 population to 35,000 in the past 10 years. I have heard that many product companies who want to sell through Wal-Mart have opened offices in Bentonville or located employees there. Makes a lot of sense. Facetime with Wal-Mart buyers could make all the difference. (I just found that I’m connected on LinkedIn to 151 Wal-Mart buyers, so maybe we don’t all have to move to Bentonville.)

But I need help finding more examples of rural entrepreneurs building high-tech companies.

Do you know of any? Think about software, app development, manufacturing, alternative energy, or any web-based business. Please let me know if you can think of any good examples.

I’ll be looking through the Internet Retailer Top 500 Directory of e-commerce companies, and I expect to find some rural examples there. But I could use help from anyone out there.

Thanks to a suggestion from Gregg Blanchard, Les Prall from the Governor’s Office of Economic Development just gave me a half dozen rural Utah technology companies to look into, and I was excited to learn about them. (Thanks, Les!)

What rural high-tech startups have you heard of?

Four Steps to the Epiphany author speaking in Utah

Just spreading the word….

ENTREPRENEURSHIP NETWORKING LUNCHEON

featuring Steve Blank (rising celebrity in the entrepreneurship world)

“Why Accountants Don’t Run Startups”

Thought leader in entrepreneurship, Steve Blank, author of “The Four Steps to the Epiphany,” will share his current thinking about startups, how and why they’re different than large companies, and a few thoughts about entrepreneurial education.

This event will combine networking, community information, and a lecture by Steve Blank, renowned entrepreneur and game-changing educator.

Monday January 24, 2011
11:30am-1:30pm
Location: Noah’s
322 West 11000 South
South Jordan, UT 84095

Tickets: http://steveblanklunch.eventbrite.com
Admission includes box lunch

AGENDA
11:30am – Welcome and Networking
11:45am – Special Announcements
12:00noon – Nathan Furr
12:15pm – Keynote: Steve Blank
1:00pm – Door Prize and Networking

STEVE BLANK

Over the last 25 years, Steve has been part of, or co-founded eight Silicon Valley startups. These have run the gamut from semiconductors, video games, personal computers, and supercomputers. (MIPS, Zilog, Rocket Science, SuperMac, Convergent Technologies, Ardent, ESL) Steve’s last company was E.piphany, an enterprise software company. Steve is on the board of Macrovision (NASDAQ: MVSN), as well as two private companies; CafePress.com an on-line marketplace, and IMVU a 3D IM social network. Steve also serves on the California Coastal Commission and is on the board of Audubon National & is Chairman of Aubudon California. Steve currently teaches entrepreneurship at U.C. Berkeley Haas Business School, the joint Berkeley/Columbia MBA program, and at the Stanford University Graduate School of Engineering. Steve teaches a methodology of starting and managing marketing, sales and business development in high technology startups. (See the course text atwww.cafepress.com/kandsranch) Steve Blank’s Specialties: Marketing, sales and business dev strategies for emerging startups.

First Utah iPhone Developers Meetup

Last year I started a Facebook group for Utah iPhone developers. The group now has 146 members. Recently, Cary Snowden (of CrunchLunch fame) and Brad Hintze jumped in to help run the group, and they have actually started organizing real world (hopefully monthly) meetings for this group.

The first meetup will be at Novell (building A) on Wednesday, May 13th, from 6-8 pm. To RSVP, or for more details, click here.

With 12 teams of BYU students recently launching iPhone applications at the Omniture-sponsored competition there, and with recent BYU and UVU conferences on mobile development, there is a ton of local interest in iPhone development. iPhone 3.0 will absolutely change all the rules of the game, and give Apple an even greater leadership position in mobile computing than they already have.

This is the mobile computing platform that will transform industries. It’s a great opportunity for entrepreneurs. Whoever jumps on board early, will have a chance to shape/disrupt whatever industry they are in. You have an opportunity to catch this massive wave, and it’s not too late because iPhone 3.0 is still coming, and it provides more business model opportunities than ever before.

I won’t be able to attend, but I’m hoping that Ryan Hatch and others from FamilyLink.com who are working on our mobile applications will be there to network.

Utah entrepreneurs: don’t miss this free lecture series

Josh Coates is one of the most talented and energetic entrepreneurs/engineers I have ever met. I had the pleasure of serving on his advisory board at Mozy.com for a brief period as he was first launching his company. He outgrew my very part time services very quickly and I watched him build a very exciting company and sell it for a very large sum in a very short period of time. Very, very cool.

I blogged about Josh and Mozy back in April 2006 when they were still in beta mode but had already received 4 stars from PC Magazine. 

Now, Josh Coates is provide 6 weeks of free public lectures for entrepreneurs, but you have to register to attend.

Highly recommended!

Here’s the full scoop from Shauna Theobald:

 

Please register here for the Josh Coates weekly lecture series so we can accommodate all those who will be attending.  Thanks and see you there.  Can’t wait…it’s gonna be great!

Topics and dates are:

– Technology and Fundamental Business Concepts (Feb. 24)
– Raising Capital: The Simple, Well Understood Path (Mar. 3)
– Pro-active Product Development for the Enterprise Market (Mar. 10)
– Hiring the A-Team: Rocks and Clowns (Mar. 17)
– Practical Internet Marketing (Mar. 24)
– Personal Liquidity and Financial Exits (Mar. 31)

This free lecture series is open to the public every Tuesday from 12-1:30 p.m., starting Tuesday, February 24th.  Sponsors include the Utah Valley Entrepreneurial Forum, the Provo Technology Xelerator, the Technology Center at Novell, and SiliconSlopes/Omniture.

About Josh Coates:  Josh began his career doing research in parallel computing at UC Berkeley and went on to found two venture backed startups related to large scale data storage technology.  His extensive experience ranges from high performance computing and data center operations to venture funding, financial modeling, marketing and mergers and acquisitions.   Coates has been honored for his innovation by MIT and Ernst and Young and featured in Forbes and the Wall Street Journal.  He currently volunteers as an adjunct instructor in the Computer Science department at BYU.

See you there,

Shauna

Shauna L. Theobald

Novell Technology Center

Big Event for Utah Investors and Entrepreneurs, Nov. 20th

Mark Cuban pointed out on his blog last week that President Elect Obama has made his first mistake: he failed to appoint a single entrepreneur to his economic advisory team, when it is clear that "entrepreneurs that start and run small businesses will be the propellant in this economy." He suggested that the new President should "ask the people who are actually starting new businesses what they need," so that the government doesn’t adopt policies that will backfire by hurting entrepreneurs.

This morning I watched a 1 hour documentary on the Biography Channel about Sam Walton, the founder of Wal-Mart, who by 1985 was the richest man in the United States. It was especially interesting to see how he grew up during the Great Depression, and how many of his values and goals were shaped by watching his father eek out a living during the depression.

After WWII, Sam bought a five-and-dime store that was losing money and turned it around by experimenting with a new retail trend called self-service, where the customers actually browsed for their own merchandise rather than asking a clerk to get it for him. His store sales tripled. Within three years he had repaid the $20,000 startup capital he had borrowed from his father-in-law, and he was ready to expand. However, the building owner decided not to renew his lease, so Sam lost his store location.

The documentary explained the obstacles and hardships Sam Walton faced on his way to becoming the most successful retailer in the history of the world. One decision he made in 1961 that I found particularly interesting (it made me smile) was when he bought controlling interest in an Arkansas bank so he could lend himself more money to open more retail stores. Now that is creative, out of the box thinking, for an entrepreneur!

You can read about the history of Wal-Mart at FundingUniverse, along with thousands of other company histories. Many of them contain amazing stories of entrepreneurs overcoming hard times along their path to success. 

Next week, Utah Entrepreneurs have a chance to learn about steps they can take along their road to entrepreneurial success. On Thursday, November 20th, an important event for entrepreneurs and Utah angel investors will take place:

Starting Nov. 17th, Utah joins more than 100 countries and organizations representing millions of entrepreneurs to celebrate Global Entrepreneurship Week. A highlight of Utah’s celebration is a day-long entrepreneur and angel investing event on Thursday, Nov. 20th.

The one-day event – “Unleashing Ideas: Igniting High-Growth Entrepreneurship in Utah” – takes place Thursday, Nov. 20, from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. at Sandy’s South Towne Exposition Center. Entrepreneurs, angel investors, venture capitalists, and experts in numerous core service industries will attend.

The Nov. 20th conference features the third annual Angel Summit, attracting angel investors throughout the state. Angel investors are high net-worth individuals who fund early-stage, high-potential business opportunities. Registration and additional information are available via www.GewUtah.com. (Source: UtahPulse.com)

I have agreed to participate all-day in this conference by chairing one of the tracks that will address the needs of entrepreneurs and inventors who need help raising capital or doing online marketing.

There is a quality program planned with multiple tracks, and I encourage all Utah entrepeneurs to spread the word and turn this into a well-attended event.

Against the backdrop of national economic crisis, let’s take a day to brainstorm with each other what entrepreneurs can do to create value and generate positive economic activity that will help us, as previous generations have done, claw our way back to prosperity through hard work and innovation.

I’ll see you there.

iPhone developers, unite!

A few months ago, after feeling the initial rush of getting a million users of our Facebook app We’re Related in just 29 days, I set up a Facebook group with an admittedly dumb name: Utah CEOs With a Facebook Strategy. It now has 488 members. We met a couple of times in Provo earlier this year. Jason McGowan and Michael Jensen from our team at FamilyLink.com shared with about 30-40 attendees how to build an app that is viral and can scale, and I tried to pump the Facebook opportunity as well as I could. I’m a true believer in what Facebook did with their Platform, as you will see from my original blog post the day they announced it, back in May 2007, when I predicted that Facebook would become the world’s leading social network. It only took a year for that to happen, as recent Comscore data shows Facebook with more worldwide users and page views than MySpace.

In the ensuing months we have tried to find other Facebook applications developed in Utah that had more than say 50,000 users, so we could invite other developers to share their learning with the group, but we haven’t been able to find any other Utah company with a successful Facebook app–so this group has kind of stagnated.

I don’t understand why we don’t see more Utah entrepreneurs anticipating and catching these amazing waves of opportunities, as new platforms open up for software developers. After all, Utah once boasted the world’s leading word processing company (WordPerfect) and the world’s leading networking company (Novell). And we still have the world’s best web analytics company (Omniture) and the world’s best online video delivery platform (Move Networks.)

Of course today the world celebrates the launch of another new platform, which might end up being far bigger and more important than the Facebook platform. Apple’s iPhone, despite today’s launch problems, will be purchased by tens of millions of consumers in the next year and hundreds of millions after that. Back in March, Apple announced the SDK that allows developers to build applications for the iPhone. Tens of thousands of developers were accepted into the official beta developers program. Today, hundreds of applications premiered in the app store. I’ve downloaded six or seven, including the ridiculous PhoneSaber app, and the silly Light app (turns the iphone into a really lame flashlight), but a few others with some promise. The iPhone is definitely the most amazing consumer device I’ve ever owned from a design standpoint (although I am more addicted to my Blackberry for its utility and more in love with my Kindle for the fact that it just does books, and I love books.) That it is now a platform for software developers makes it even more amazing.

This time I know at least a few Utah based companies that are planning iPhone apps, including one that I think will be wildly successful. And so, once again, I’ve organized a Facebook group, again with a dumb name: Utah Executives Creating iPhone Apps. We aren’t targeted developers only, as much as business people and entrepreneurs who want to take advantage of this new platform. But maybe we should focus on developers, since they are often way more into technology and are sometimes looking for the next new thing. Who knows? Only 10 members have joined this group, but maybe after this blog post we’ll get a few dozen members and organize our first get together in the next month.

If you are from Utah, and work for a company that ought to have an iPhone app, or after that an app for phones based on Google Android (read this incredible Wired article about what Google Android is all about) or the Symbian OS which Nokia recently purchased and announced plans to open source (this is really big news, since Symbian phones still have the most market share, I believe) then join this Facebook group, and help me rally some support for companies to invest in mobile software.

I’d love to see some entrepreneurs/developers from Utah coming up with some killer mobile software applications, and then showing up in the Deal Flow report on SiliconSlopes.com, the web site that best covers the Utah high-tech economy.

I sometimes miss running the Provo Labs incubator, because with each new platform there are a myriad of opportunities, but then I remember how much I love running FamilyLink.com, where we actually get to take advantage of every new platform that makes sense for families (which may exclude Google’s new Lively virtual world as well as other virtual world’s that have recently been announced) and build applications, widgets, or full-functioning software for these platforms. Our Facebook apps now have 6.8 million users and nearly 150,000 daily active users. And we actually launched on that platform about five months later than we had hoped. (We were really in bootstrap mode back then.) We may be a few months late with our iPhone apps as well, but the opportunity will be so vast in the long run, that it probably won’t matter too much.

Sign up for the Utah iPhone group, and let’s get together to brainstorm and fan the flames of excitement about mobile platforms and how Utah companies can participate in where the high-tech economy is heading.

Crash Course in Internet Marketing starts March 15th

Yesterday I met with about a dozen entrepreneurs who came to the Provo Labs Academy to learn about the 12-Week Crash Course in Internet Marketing that starts next Thursday, March 15th at 5 pm.

An email will be going out to about 1,000 Utah entrepreneurs early next week, as well as a few additional marketing efforts. We have room for at least 10 more people to sign up for the class, but space is limited, so sign up today at www.provolabs.com/academy/

We’ve conveniently scheduled the class for Thursdays at 5 pm, so that both entrepreneurs and full-time working professionals can attend.

When you sign up for the Crash Course, you are also welcome to attend our Live Friday lectures every Friday at 12:30 pm at the Academy (yes, bring your own lunch) where we discuss all the news of the week that affects internet entrepreneurs and internet marketers. This is one of my favorite hours of the week. I invite my partners at World Vital Records and other Provo Labs portfolio companies to attend. The goal is to try to stay current with all the new companies, technologies, web sites, and marketing strategies, which is hard to do in an ever-changing world.

I go through dozens of RSS feeds each week from all of my favorite sources, including MarketingVOX, and try to select the top 10 news highlights of the week that internet marketers and entrepreneurs should be aware of.

Here’s an write up from one Live Friday session from a few months ago:

Every Friday at noon, our Provo Labs Academy members get together to discuss all the latest internet marketing news. I have promised to read MarketingVOX every day and to visit all the new web sites and try the new tools that affect internet marketing. Then I

Last chance for Utah entrepreneurs to get $100,000 in funding at Governor’s Summit

Utah is a very friendly state for startup companies. It ranks in the top few states for entrepreneurship. We have a great economic environment, a well educated work force, and a very growth-oriented governor. Plus, we have FundingUniverse.com, headquartered right here in Utah.

FundingUniverse.com and Grow Utah Ventures will select five entrepreneurs to present their business plans on March 22nd at Governor Huntsman’s Economic Summit, in front of a live audience at Grand America Hotel (the finest hotel in Salt Lake City.) The audience will include angel investors from nearly every angel group in Utah. And the winning entrepreneur will receive an investment of up to $100,000 from these angels.

The application deadline is tomorrow, March 6th. Click here to apply.

Even if you aren’t chosen to present at this exclusive event, by submitting your plan to FundingUniverse.com (for free) your plan will be viewable by scores of angel investors in Utah.

FundingUniverse.com operates nationwide, with nearly 750 angel investors and VCs nationwide using the site to find early stage deals. Submit your plan and then call to find out when the next Speedpitching event will be held in your region.

Note: I helped found FundingUniverse.com in early 2005 and Provo Labs is a significant shareholder in the company.